From the imperfect copy of A C. Merry Tales, small fol., printed by John Rastell. (See Singer's reprint, p. 55.
Of Master Skelton that brought the bishop of
IT fortuned there was a great variance between the bishop of Norwich and one Master Skelton a poet laureate; in so much that the bishop commanded him that he should not come in his gates. This Master Skelton did absent himself for a long season. But at the last he thought to do his duty to him, and studied ways how he might obtain the bishop's favour, and determined himself that he would come to him with some present, and humble himself to the bishop; and got a couple of pheasants, and came to the bishop's place, and required the porter he might come in to speak with my lord. This porter, knowing his lord's pleasure, would not suffer him to come in at the gates; wherfore this Master Skelton went on the backside to seek some other way to come in to the place. But the place was moated that he could see no way to come over, except in one place where there lay a long tree over the moat in manner of a bridge, that was fallen down with wind; wherefore this Master Skelton went along upon the tree to come over, and when he was almost over, his foot slipped for lack of sure footing, and fell into the moat up to middle; but at the last he recovered himself, and, as well as he coud, dried himself again, and suddenly came to the bishop, being in his hall, then lately risen from dinner: which, when he saw Skelton coming suddenly, said to him, "Why, thou caitiff, I warned thee thou shouldest never come in at my gates, and charged my porter to keep thee out." "Forsooth, my lord," quod Skelton, "though ye gave such charge, and though your gates be never so surely kept, yet it is no more possible to keep me out of your doors than to keep out crows or pies; for I came not in at your gates, but I came over the moat, that I have been almost drowned for my labour." And shewed his clothes how evil he was arayed, which caused many that stood thereby to laugh apace. Than quod Skelton, "If it like your lordship, I have brought you a dish to your supper, a couple of pheasants." "Nay," quod the bishop, "I defy thee and thy pheasants also, and, wretch as thou art, pike thee out of my house, for I will none of thy gift how [something lost here] Skelton then, considering that the bishop called him fool so oft, said to one of his familiars thereby, that though it were evil to be christened a fool, yet it was much worse to be confirmed a fool of such a bishop; for the name of confirmation must needs abide. Therefore he imagined how he might avoid that confirmation, and mused a while, and at the last, said to the bishop thus, "If your lordship knew the names of these pheasants, ye would [be] content to take them." Why, caitiff, quod the bishop hastily and angry, [what] be their names? Ywis, my lord, quod Skelton, this pheasant is called Alpha, which is, in primis the first, and this is called Omega, that is, novissimus the last; and for the more plain understanding of my mind, if it please your lordship to take them, I promise you, this Alpha is the first that ever I gave you, and this Omega is the last that ever I will give you while I live." At which answer all that were by made great laughter, and they all desired the bishop to be good lord unto him for his merry conceits: at which earnest entreaty, as it went, the bishop was content to take him unto his favour again.
By this tale ye may see that merry conceits doth a man more good than to fret himself with anger and melancholy."
From Tales, and quick answers, very merry, and pleasant to read. 4to. n.d., printed by Thomas Berthelet. (See Singer's reprint, p. 9.)
Of the beggar's answer to M. Skelton the poet. xiii.
A poor beggar, that was foul, black, and loathly to behold, came upon a time unto Master Skelton the poet, and asked him his alms. To whom Master Skelton said, "I pray thee get thee away from me, for thou lookest as though thou camest out of hell." The poor man, perceiving he would give him nothing, answered, "For sooth, Sir, ye say truth; I came out of hell. Why didst thou not tarry still there?" quod Master Skelton. "Marry, Sir," quod the beggar, "there is no room for such poor beggars as I am; all is kept for such gentlemen as ye be."
Prefixed to Pithy pleasaunt and profitable works of master Skelton, Poet Laureate. Now collected and newly published. Anno 1568. 12mo.
IF sloth and tract of time
(That wears each thing away)
Should rust and canker worthy arts,
Good works would soon decay.
If such as present are
Forgoeth the people past,
Our selves should soon in silence sleep,
And lose renown at last.
No soil nor land so rude
But some odd men can show:
Then should the learned pass unknown,
Whose pen and skill did flow?
God shield our sloth were such,
Or world so simple now,
That knowledge 'scaped without reward,
Who searcheth virtue through,
And paints forth vice aright,
And blames abuse of men,
And shows what lief deserves rebuke,
And who the praise of pen.
You see how foreign realms
Advance their poets all;
And ours are drowned in the dust,
Or hung against the wall.
In France did Marrot reign;
And neighbour there unto
Was Petrarch, marching full with Dante,
Who erst did wonders do;
Among the noble Greeks
Was Homer full of skill;
And where that Ovid nourished was
The soil did flourish still
With letters high of style;
But Virgil won the phrase,
And pased them all for deep engine,
And made them all to gaze
Upon the book he made:
Thus each of them, you see,
Won praise and fame, and honor had,
Each one in their degree.
I pray you, then, my friends,
Disdain not for to view
The works and sugared verses fine
Of our rare poets new;
Whose barbarous language rude
Perhaps ye may mislike;
But blame them not that rudely play
If they the ball do strike,
Nor scorn not mother tongue,
O babes of English breed!
I have of other language seen,
And you at full may read
Fine verses trimly wrought,
And couched in comely sort;
But never I nor you, I trow,
In sentence plain and short
Did yet behold with eye,
In any foreign tongue,
A higher verse, a statlier style,
That may be read or sung,
Than is this day indeed
Our English verse and rhyme,
The grace wherof doth touch the gods,
And reach the clouds sometime.
Through earth and waters deep
The pen by skill doth pass,
And featly nips the world's abuse,
And shows us in a glass
The virtue and the vice
Of every wight alive:
The honeycomb that he doth make
Is not so sweet in hive
As are the golden leaves
That drops from poet's head,
Which doth surmount our common talk
As far as dross [sic] doth lead:
The flour is sifted clean,
The bran is cast aside,
And so good corn is known from chaff
And each fine grain is spied.
Piers Plowman was full plain,
And Chaucer's spirit was great;
Earl Surrey had a goodly vein;
Lord Vaux the mark did beat,
And Phaer did hit the prick
In things he did translate,
And Edwards had a special gift;
And divers men of late
Hath helped our English tongue,
That first was base and brute:?
Oh, shall I leave out Skelton's name,
The blossom of my fruit,
The tree wheron indeed
My branches all might grow?
Nay, Skelton wore the laurel wreath,
And passed in schools, ye know;
A poet for his art,
Whose judgment sure was high,
And had great practice of the pen,
His works they will not lie;
His terms to taunts did lean,
His talk was as he wrote,
Full quick of wit, right sharp of words,
And skilfull of the state;
Of reason ripe and good,
And to the hatefull mind,
That did disdain his doings still,
A scorner of his kind;
Most pleasant every way,
As poets ought to be,
And seldom out of prince's grace,
And great with each degree.
Thus have you heard at full
What Skelton was indeed;
A further knowledge shall you have,
If you his books do read.
I have of mere good will
These verses written here,
To honour virtue as I ought,
And make his fame appear,
That when the garland gay
Of laurel leaves but let:
Small is my pain, great is his praise,
That thus such honour get.
Finis quod Churchyarde.
From Johannis Parkhursti Ludicra sine Epigrammata Juvenilia. 1573, 4to. p. 103.
De Skelton vate et sacerdote.
SKELTONUS gravidam reddebat forte puellam,
Insigni forma quae peperit puerum.
Illico multorum fama haec pervenit ad aures,
Esse patrem nato sacrificum puero.
Skeltonum facti non poenitet aut pudet; aedes
Ad sacras festo sed venit ipse die:
Pulpita conscendit facturus verba popello;
Inque haec prorupit dicta vir ille bonus;
Quid vos, O scurrae, capit admiratio
Non sunt eunuchi, credite, sacrifici:
O stolidi, vitulum num me genuisse putatis
Non genui vitulum, sed lepidum puerum;
Sique meis verbis non creditis, en puer, inquit;
Atque e suggesto protulit, ac abiit."
("Of Skelton the priest and poet.
It happened that Skelton got a girl pregnant
Who gave birth to a boy.
This story came to the ears of many
That a son was born to a priest.
Skelton was not ashamed or penitent,
But went to church the same day to say Mass
He went in the pulpit to preach to the people
This good man confronted them thus:
'Why, you scoundrels, are you making a fuss?
Believe me, priests are not eunuchs
You fools, do not think that I have fathered a calf,
It is not a calf, but a lively boy:
If you don't believe me, here is the boy,' he said,
And he brought him out to show them, and then went away.")
From A Treatise Against Judicial Astrology. Dedicated to the Right Honorable Sir Thomas Egerton Knight, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, and one of her Majesty's most honorable privy Council. Written by John Chamber, one of the Prebendaries of her Majesty's free Chapel of
Not much unlike to merry Skelton, who thrust his wife out at the door, and received her in again at the window. The story is well known how the bishop had charged him to thrust his wife out of the door: but that which was but a merriment in Skelton, &c. p. 99.
So that the leap year, for any thing I see, might well use the defence of merry Skelton, who being a priest, and having a child by his wife, every one cried out, "Oh, Skelton hath a child, fie on him," &c. Their mouths at that time he could not stop: but on a holy day, in a merry mood, he brought the child to church with him, and in the pulpit stript it naked, and held it out, saying, "See this child: is it not a pretty child, as other children be, even as any of yours? hath it not legs, arms, head, feet, limbs, proportioned every way as it should be? If Skelton had begot a monster, as a calf, or such like, what a life should poor Skelton have had then? So we say for the leap year, if it had changed the nature of things, as it is charged, how should it have done then to defend itself?
From The Life of Long Meg of Westminster: containing the mad merry pranks she played in her life time, not only in performing sundry quarrels with divers ruffians about London: But also how valiantly she behaved herself in the wars of Boulogne. 1635. 4to. (Of this tract there is said to have been a much earlier edition. I quote from the reprint in Miscellanea Antiqua Anglicana, 1816.)
Containing how he [the carrier] placed her in
AFTER the carrier had set up his horse, and dispatched his lading, he remembered his oath, and therefore bethought him how he might place these three maids: with that he called to mind that the mistress at the Eagle in Westminster had spoken divers times to him for a servant; he with his carriage passed over the fields to her house, where he found her sitting and drinking with a Spanish knight called Sir James of Castile, doctor Skelton, and Will Sommers; told her how he had brought up to London three Lancashire lasses, and seeing she was oft desirous to have a maid, now she should take her choice which of them she would have. "Marry," quoth she, (being a very merry and a pleasant woman,) "carrier, thou comest in good time; for not only I want a maid, but here be three gentlemen that shall give me their opinions, which of them I shall have." With that the maids were bidden come in, and she intreated them to give their verdict. Straight as soon as they saw Long Meg, they began to smile; and doctor Skelton in his mad merry vein, blessing himself, began thus:
Domine, Domine, unde hoc? ("Lord, lord, where is she from?")
What is she in the gray cassock?
Me thinks she is of a large length,
Of a tall pitch, and a good strength,
With strong arms and stiff bones;
This is a wench for the nones:
Her looks are bonny and blithe,
She seemes neither lither nor lithe,
But young of age,
And of a merry visage,
Neither beastly nor bowsy,
Sleepy nor drowsy,
But fair fac'd and of a good size;
Therefore, hostess, if you be wise,
Once be ruled by me,
Take this wench to thee;
For this is plain,
She'll do more work than these twain:
I tell thee, hostess, I do not mock;
Take her in the gray cassock.
"What is your opinion?" quoth the hostess to Sir James of
Containing the merry skirmish that was between her and Sir James of Castile, a Spanish knight, and what was the end of their combat.
There was a great suitor to Meg's mistress, called Sir James of
Scogan and Skelton, 1600, a play by Richard Hathway and William Hankins, is mentioned in Henslowe's MSS.: see Malone's Shakespeare (by Boswell,) iii. 324.
Notices of Skelton may also be found in:
? A Dialogue both pleasant and pitiful, wherein is a godly regiment against the Fever Pestilence, with a consolation and comfort against death. Newly corrected by William Bullein, the author thereof. 1573, 8vo. Of this piece I have seen only the above ed.; but it appeared originally in 1564. It contains notices of several poets, introduced by way of interlude or diversion in the midst of a serious dialogue; and (at p. 17) Skelton is described as sitting "in the corner of a Pillar, with a frosty bitten face, frowning," and "writing many a sharp Disticons "against Wolsey?
"How the Cardinal came of nought,
And his Prelacy sold and bought," &c.
(15 verses chiefly made up from Skelton's works).
? The Reward of Wickedness, discoursing the sundry monstrous abuses of wicked and ungodly Worldlings, &c. Newly compiled by Richard Robinson, servant in household to the right honorable Earle of Shrewsbury, &c. 4to, no d. (The Address to the Reader dated 1574,) at sig. Q 2.
? A Discourse of English Poetry, &c., By William Webbe, Graduate, 1586, 4to, at sig. c iii.
? The Art of English Poesy, &c. (attributed to one Puttenham: but see D'Israeli's Amen. of Lit. ii. 278, sqq.), 1589, 4to, at pp. 48, 50, 69.
? Four Letters, and certain Sonnets: Especially touching Robert Greene, &c. (by Gabriell Harvey,) 1592, 4to, at p. 7.
? Pierces Supererogation or a New Praise of the Old Ass, &c. [by] Gabriell Harvey, 1593, 4to, at p. 75.
? Palladis Tamia. Wit's Treasury Being the Second part of Wit's Commonwealth. By Francis Meres, &c., 1598, 12mo, at p. 278279.
? Virgidemiarum. The three last books of biting Satires. (by Joseph Hall,) 1598, 12mo, at p. 83.
? The Downfall of Robert Earl of
? In The Death of Robert, Earl of Huntington, &c. (by Anthony Munday and Henry Chettle,) 1601, 4to, which forms a Second Part to the drama just described, Skelton, though his name is not mentioned throughout it, is still supposed to act the Friar.
? Miscellanea, written out by "Johnes
? Pimlico, or Run Red-Cap. 'Tis a mad world at Hogsdon, 1609, 4to. Besides a notice of Skelton, this poem contains two long quotations from his Elynour Rumming.
? Cornucopiae. Pasquil's Night-cap: Or Antidote for the Head-ache (by Samuel Rowlands,) 1612, 4to, at sig. O 2 and sig. Q 3. The second notice of Skelton in this poem is as follows;
"And such a wondrous troupe the Hornpipe treads,
One cannot pass another for their heads,
That shortly we shall have (as Skelton jests)
A greater sort of horned men than beasts:"
but I recollect nothing in his works to which the allusion can be applied.
? An Half-pennyworth of wit, in a Pennyworth of Paper. Or, The Hermit's Tale. The third Impression. 1613, 4to. At p. 16 of this poem is a tale said to be "in Skelton's rime "?to which, however, it bears no resemblance.
? The Shepherd's Pipe (by Browne and Withers,) 1614, 12mo, in Eglogue 1., at sig. C 7
? Hypercritica; or A Rule of Judgment for writing, or reading our Histories, &c. By Edmund Bolton, Author of Nero Caesar (Published by Dr. Anthony Hall together with Nicolai Triveti Annalium Continuatio, &c.), 1722, 8vo, at p. 235. At what period
? Poems: By Michael Drayton Esquire, n.d. folio, at p. 283.
? The Golden Fleece Divided into three Parts, &c., by Orpheus Junior [Sir William Vaughan], 1626, 4to, at pp. 83, 88, 93, of the Third Part. In this piece "Scogin and Skelton" figure as "the chief Advocates for the Doggerel Rhymers by the procurement of Zoilus, Momus, and others of the Popish Sect."
? The Fortunate Isles, and their
? Wit and Fancy In a Maze. Or the Incomparable Champion of Love and Beauty. A Mock-Romance, &c. Written originally in the British Tongue, and made English by a person of much Honour. Si foret in terris rideret Democritus. 1656, 12mo. [Note Such is the title-page of the copy now before me: but some copies (see Restituta, iv. 196) are entitled Don Zara del Fogg, &c. 1656; and others Romancio-Mastix, or a Romance of Romances, &c. By Samuel Holland.
? Of Skelton's drama, The Necromancer, the following account is given by Warton:?
"I cannot quit Skelton, of whom I yet fear too much has been already said, without restoring to the public notice a play, or MORALITY, written by him, not recited in any catalogue of his works, or annals of English typography; and, I believe, at present totally unknown to the antiquarians in this sort of literature. It is, The NECROMANCER, a moral INTERLUDE and a pithy written by Master SKELTON laureate and played before the King and other estates at
*Note: "My lamented friend Mr. William Collins, whose Odes will be remembered while any taste for true poetry remains, showed me this piece at Chichester, not many months before his death: and he pointed it out as a very rare and valuable curiosity. He intended to write the HISTORY OF THE RESTORATION OF LEARNING UNDER LEO THE TENTH, and with a view to that design, had collected many scarce books. Some few of these fell into my hands at his death. The rest, among which, I suppose, was this INTERLUDE, were dispersed."